After a spring of arguing over such social issues as gay marriage and insurance coverage for women's contraceptives, most Democrats and Republicans agreed last week that this fall's election is still about the economy -- stupid or not.
But they sharply disagreed over which candidates are paying more attention to the issue and who stands to win the economic argument in November.
Democrats pointed to a series of job-based TV commercials from the Barack Obama camp as evidence their party will campaign on employment and opponent Mitt Romney's record, not on social policy.
"Democrats are focused on jobs, the middle class, job creation and job growth," said Mike Sanders, Missouri Democratic chairman and Jackson County executive. "What we hear from the Republican side is focusing on social issues."
But Republicans claim the shoe has firmly moved to the other foot.
After years of criticism for their emphasis on social and cultural issues -- what some refer to as "guns, God and gays" -- Republicans insist it is now the Democrats who are talking about those concerns to distract voters from the wobbly economy.
"Obama cannot talk about his record from an economic standpoint," said Missouri Sen. Brad Lager, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. "Instead, he wants to talk about things like gay marriage."
Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, echoed the sentiment.
"Anytime the president can change the discussion to almost any other topic besides the economy, that's politically good for him," Blunt said.
The current battle to define the issues in the 2012 election is considered crucial for both parties.
And numerous polls show voters are far more worried about the economy than anything else. The latest, from CBS News and The New York Times last week, showed 62 percent of those surveyed believe the economy and jobs are the most important issue in the presidential race, far more than any other subject.
Same-sex marriage was named by just 7 percent of those polled.
At the same time, experts said, both presidential campaigns have reached a critical time -- the weeks between the primaries and the political conventions. Unlike previous campaigns, they said, that usual downtime has been replaced by an insatiable 24-hour media environment that will define both candidates, whether they like it or not.
"It's helping voters form opinions, absolutely," said Bill Lacy, director of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas and a veteran of presidential campaigns. "The media impact, the 24/7 media, the blogs, the websites."
Yet Republicans haven't completely abandoned their focus on social issues.
This spring, Missouri lawmakers debated new protections for gun owners and a ban on discussing homosexuality in schools, for example, while Kansas legislators passed new abortion restrictions and argued over immigration issues.
And the squabble over who is more committed to women's concerns has not abated.
Democrats have accused House Republicans of attempting to roll back the Violence Against Women Act, while 14 female GOP House members -- including U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri and U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas -- released a letter insisting Republicans are the "real party" of American women.
Aaron Trost, a local GOP consultant who guided Nebraska Rep. Deb Fischer to a stunning U.S. Senate primary victory last Tuesday, said voters aren't in an "either-or" mood.
"We're going to be pointing out our differences (with the Democratic candidate) on a range of issues," he said. "I don't think you can put everything into one basket."
But Doug Gray, an area consultant who has worked for Democrats and on issues related to the gay community, said the focus on such issues may fade as voters get closer to Election Day.
"It all goes back to pocketbook," Gray noted. "It's not an issue, on the (gay) marriage stuff, that either side wants to talk about much."
That hasn't been completely true over the past week. Both Obama and Romney raised the issue in campaign speeches.
But social issues, from gay marriage to abortion to immigration, were absent from Romney's speech during his fundraising visit to Kansas City last week.
Instead, the almost certain GOP nominee focused on tax policy, health care reform and energy production.
"It doesn't surprise me," said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican and immigration reform advocate who was in the audience. "(Immigration) is a really controversial issue that divides some factions, and so it's not necessarily a safe issue. He's got lots of winning issues to talk about."